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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2018-19

Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap 40 Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To acquire a sophisticated understanding of Old Norse mythology studied in modern English translation.
  • To engage in detailed analysis of the legends surrounding Sigurd the dragon-slayer and analogous stories as preserved chiefly in Old Norse but also in Old English and German works, all studies in modern English translation.
  • To appreciate the ways in which this material has been used in major works of the modern period.


  • All medieval and foreign texts will be studied in modern English translation.
  • The module will be taught in two-hour seminars that take place fortnightly.
  • Students will discuss the main primary texts from the Middle Ages, including Völsunga saga and Snorri Sturluson’s Edda in relation to the poems of The Elder Edda; they will seek to understand the nature of these works as literary creations that stem from oral tradition.
  • Another group of seminars will focus on particular gods – Odin, Loki and the deities of fertility, for example – for in-depth analysis of their myths.
  • The final part of the module will be devoted to modern works that draw inspiration from these sources, with emphasis normally on Richard Wagner, William Morris and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of the nature, transmission and adaptation of myths and legends.
  • Expertise in areas of literature from the medieval to the modern period.
  • Knowledge of a substantial number of authors and texts from different periods of literary history.
  • Appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the distinctive character of texts written in the principal literary genres, in this context saga and poetry, including poetry composed for performance as drama.
  • Knowledge of linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-historical contexts in which literature is written.
  • Knowledge of useful and precise critical terminology.
  • Awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts, authors, and critical approaches within this literary period
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts relating to this literary period
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to this literary period
  • skills of effective communication and argument
  • an awareness of conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • an awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
  • an ability to engage in independent research at an appropriate level
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse critically
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars: encourage peer-group discussion, enable students to develop critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts, and skills of effective communication and presentation; promote awareness of diversity of interpretation and methodology
  • Consultation session: encourages students to reflect critically and independently on their work
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for seminars provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.
  • Coursework: tests the student's ability to argue, respond and interpret, and to demonstrate subject-specific knowledge and skills such as appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation and the close reading and analysis of texts; they also test the ability to present word-processed work, observing scholarly conventions. In individual Special Topics, the essay may, where appropriate to the subject, take an alternative form, such as 'creative criticism'.
  • Feedback: The written feedback that is provided after the first assessed essay allows students to reflect on examiners' comments, giving students the opportunity to improve their work for the second essay.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 2 Hours 20
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Consultation Sessions 1 15 Minutes 0.25
Preparation and Reading 169.75
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
assignment 1 3000 words 50%
assignment 2 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

Before the first assessed essay, students have an individual 15 minute consultation session in which they are entitled to show their seminar leader a sheet of points relevant to the essay and to receive oral comment on these points. Students may also, if they wish, discuss their ideas for the second essay at this meeting.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University